Rami's Blog

Like the Yin-Yang, Eastern Martial Arts and Western medicine are two halves of a whole my mission is to preserve the ancient mind-body tools, and pass them on to you.

 

Face Relaxed and Dissolved

The Major Up & Down Forces: Last Part of the Series!

Welcome back mind-body aficianados!

Until now, in regards to the Major Up & Down Forces series, I blogged about emphasizing and practicing the two Up Forces through the spine - the lumbar and the thoracic - and then the Up Force through the top of the head - head suspended. I also gave you some exercises for each part. How did you do with them?

Next, I went over the Down Forces with your spine and shoulders and then the Down Force of your abdominal muscles and internal organs.

This final blog of the Major Up & Down series completes our exploration of the Up & Down Forces for now but that does not mean that you do not need to keep practicing these important concepts in all of your mind-body exercises.

Remember to add the forces to all of your training and practice them whenever you can. I talked about practicing the Up & Down Forces while stopped at a red light or while waiting for your computer to load. Implementing the forces while sitting in meditation, stretching, practicing the Tai Chi form or for Chi Kung will take your practice to the next level. Keep working on it!

So what is the last remaining down force in the major Up & Down Forces series?

The face.

We hold a lot of tension in our face. The face is made up of layers and layers of muscles, like an onion, that connect to the shoulders.

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Face dissolving meditation 

Do the Face Dissolving Meditation for 3 to 5 minutes every day or 3 times a week if you are busy or a beginner.    On days you can, use the setting or rising sun to help with the face meditation. I challenge you to sit for 20 to 40 minutes!

Do the Face Dissolving Meditation for 3 to 5 minutes every day or 3 times a week if you are busy or a beginner.

On days you can, use the setting or rising sun to help with the face meditation. I challenge you to sit for 20 to 40 minutes!

Ice to water and water to gas….

Sit on the floor on a yoga block cross legged or in Seza or sit on the edge of a chair.

Lengthen your spine, relax your shoulders and suspend your head then breath deeply 3 to 5 times. Relax your entire body. 

Then bring your mind to your face. Keep breathing deep, quiet, long peaceful inhalations and deep, quiet, long peaceful exhalations.

Start dissolving the skin on your face.

Sense the corners of your mouth, the corners of your eyes and the corners of your nose and dissolve them;
ice to water and water to gas.

Work on that for a few minutes then move to the temple area, let the temple area dissolve downwards.
Then move to the skin on your face - dissolve it; ice to water and water to gas.

Work on that for a few minutes then move to the first layer of fascia. Dissolve your fascia for a few minutes then the first layer of your face muscles. Move slowly, layer by layer until one day you will reach the skull. Maybe one day you will experience just being a skull - no face, no muscles, no expressions and no persona; enjoy it if you can.

The first time I experienced just being a skull in the face meditation was after a few years of training the face meditation. I remember reaching that experience and sensing no persona, not me any more, and I got a little scared and lost the experience.

I decided that the next time I reach this experience I will not get scared and maybe a year later I was able to reach this state again. This time I was able to stay in that place and it was such a freeing experience - no face, no persona, just being nothing.


Our Persona or Image

The face expresses our persona or our image. Each individual has a different persona but you will be surprised that many of us make similar faces in different or similar situations. 

Over the course of our life we develop certain faces or expressions that make up our persona or character. For example, when our parents give us a hard time we come up with a face or an expression that says: Ok, I am sorry or Do not tell me what to do or I understand but I do not care or I am sorry and will do better next time and other ones. 

Later on in life we adopt other faces. For example when we meet a potential partner or lover: Hi, I am nice and polite or I am confident and secure or easy going or very serious but funny. Maybe a combination of faces.

 Another situation may be when we start a new job or when we are in charge of people.

Then we have the faces we put on in public, in the street or in crowded places like an elevator. For example, we might put on a smiling face to make everybody feel comfortable or maybe we look down at the floor so as not to deal with the people around us. Or maybe we put on a helpful face: What floor do you need? Or a confused face: Is this going up or down?

The faces or the facial expressions we make can make a difference and you know it. That is why, over time and from experience, we learn which face to make as a method for moving smoothly through life. We adapt according to our experience and what we think is the best face to make for a specific situation to reach to the highest success, depending on the goal. 

Many individuals tense or wrinkle the forehead or raise their eyebrows to express or indicate surprise or wonder when talking or thinking as part of their persona. Are you one of them?

I have a good friend who, many years ago, tensed her forehead so much that, after a while I could not listen to what she was saying because the tension in her forehead was so strong that it grabbed all of my attention. I mentioned it to her and she was interested in changing it so I told her to put her hand on her forehead and learn to relax the forehead muscles when talking. It took a while but slowly she was able to let go.

Check out some of the ways our Forehead and Eyebrow body language communicates!

After 40 or 50 years we have about 6 to 8 faces that we use every day depending on the situation. Those faces make up our persona. Other people around us become familiar with those faces and they learn how we feel and what we think from the faces we make.

Remember that if you are a sad and down person, most of the time, it will eventually show on your face. You will have a sad face since the muscles in your face will shape into a sad persona, and the opposite is right as well. If you are a happy person, smiling and laughing all the time, in the long run, you will have a happy face. Either way, you can do some face exercises to help. Look in the mirror every day: Smile. Move the face muscles in different directions. Prevent the sad face; that is, if you are interested.

Holding and maintaining your persona is not easy

Some of the faces or expressions we make take a lot of energy but for most people they are manageable and worth preforming since they are our way, or our perceived way, of moving through life smoothly and successfully. 

When sick or sad or depressed you may find out that some of your family members and best friends are hard to be with. You may experience difficulty in social events or find that being in public is hard when you do not feel good. One of the reasons is that making faces or regular expressions takes too much effort and energy from yourself, especially in those situations; that is normal.

 On the other hand, again when your energy levels are low under certain situations, you may find family members, friends or even strangers who are easy to be around. People who you do not need to make faces with, and people who do not take your energy but actually you feel more energy with them; stick with them they are good for you!

You can find more of my writing about dissolving our persona or image, the face meditation while utilizing the setting sun as well as the 3rd eye meditation during sunrise in my Sunset Tai Chi book in chapter 2 on pages  82 to 83.

Energy Manifested in the Face in Different Ways

Wikipedia definition of facial expressions:

A facial expression is one or more motions or positions of the muscles beneath the skin of the face. According to one set of controversial theories, these movements convey the emotional state of an individual to observers. Facial expressions are a form of nonverbal communication.

Here is a list of 6 basic Emotions and Facial Expressions that you might find interesting and educational.

Tense Forehead, Twitching Eye, Clicking Jaw, Biting or Chewing the Inner Cheeks and Lips

Some individuals, on top of holding tension in the face muscles from the persona, facial expressions or from traumas, have extra tension in different specific areas or muscles of the face. This tension expresses itself through involuntary muscle or joint movements. Having the fight or flight system, our body responds to stress by releasing hormones that stimulate and activate the sympathetic nervous system which causes our muscles to twitch and contract. Psychological stress, fear or anxiety in life or self-conscious social situations is another big reason for this behavior. If this happens over long periods of time it could be a chronic condition.

For example, twitching muscles in one or both eyes is sometimes a manifestation of tension in the face or the shoulders. This tension could be because of many reasons but some could be from stress, either physical, emotional, or psychological or it could be a combination of them all. It can also happen from fatigue, sleep deprivation or looking at a screen for long periods of time. Some believe that drinking too much caffeine is another reason. I got an eye twitch for a while from wearing sunglass which weren’t UV protected so I stopped using them and within a week the twitch was gone. Some individuals have what is called TMJ or biting the inner cheeks. Some individuals from different psychological reasons bite their lip.

Many individuals who do any of the conditions I describe often do not even know that they are doing it and the people close to them do not dare to tell them for different reasons. You should be thankful if someone tells you; knowledge is the first step to enlightenment or in this case to at least try and change this behavior. It is true that sometimes some of these symptoms are a medical condition that more than just psychological treatments can solve but the face meditation and practicing the major Up and Down Forces is a great mind body tool or method to reverse or get rid of much of the tension and its manifestation.

Behavior and Energy that Sucks your Energy

Some specific behavior or some faces that other people make around you will suck your energy if you are not careful or sensitive. For example a person who gives you a face to belittle you - You are a loser - that will suck your energy. Or You are stupid or You do not know what you are doing or You are not important. Another face or behavior that can suck your energy is from individuals who you explain or tell them something and they need more explanation, more attention, even though you explained it clear and simple: I don’t understand. Can you explain it again? Or Can you repeat what you just said? I did not hear you.

A third behavior or face is Poor me like It is so hard for me or I do not know if I can do it. Even though you are good at something - I am not good - I am a loser. There are other behaviors that come with certain faces that will suck your energy. Watch out for them and learn to not let your energy get sucked out of you, if you do not choose to. On the other hand, some behavior or faces of other people around you will nourish your energy and will make you feel good and happy.

Were you able to let go of the tension in your face? Did you experience any memories while dissolving?

Were you able to dissolve and reach the sensation of just being a skull?

Meanwhile, if you want more, go to Udemy.com for follow-along videos which teach you how to practice Meditation or how Tai Chi can help you achieve your health and martial goals. Or get my books; first Sunrise Tai Chi and then Sunset Tai Chi.

Until then, Happy Stretching, Deep Breathing, Empty your Mind, Strengthen your Energetic System & Evoke your spirit!

Rami

Abdominal Muscles Down & Internal Organs Relaxed

The Major Up & Down Forces: Part 4

Let’s Review!

Until now, in regards to the Major Up & Down Forces, I blogged about emphasizing and practicing the 2 Up Forces through the spine - the lumbar and thoracic spine Up - and the Up Force through the top of the head, or head suspended. I also gave you exercises and mind body challenges for each blog. Next I blogged about the Down Force with your Shoulders.

In the next two blogs I will talk about the remaining 2 Down Forces of the Major Up & Down Forces and give you some more challenges to try and practice.

By the end of the Major Up & Down Forces series you will have learned the 3 Major Up forces and the 3 Major Down forces that are important for both health and martial arts and a couple of different ways to practice them.

You can read more about the Up & Down Forces, also called the Three Spheres, in my books Sunrise Tai Chi on pages 17 through 20 and in Sunset Tai Chi on pages 28 to 34.


In this blog I will focus on the second major Down force which is relaxing and dropping the abdominal muscles as well as deep relaxation and dissolving of tension in the internal organs.

We hold a lot of tension in the abdominal muscles and in the internal organs. Eastern philosophies believe that we store traumas energetically in our abdominal and back muscles, internal organs and other places in our physical and energetic bodies. As you relax and dissolve impurities in those areas you might experience strong memories or flashbacks. Ignore them and keep dissolving.

Dissolving impurities is metaphorically like washing mud off of your body and the memories are like pieces of plastic stuck in the mud which also get washed away. You do not need to go through the mud and understand what each piece of plastic represents, or what each memory means, just keep washing the mud off, and the impurities will wash away, too. In other words, do not get caught on the small details, keep dissolving.

There are many layers of muscles in the abdominal area to protect our internal organs so dissolving and relaxing the abdominal muscles and the internal organs takes some practice but can be highly beneficial for both health and martial arts on the physical and mental level.

It is interesting that in the West when we want to show strength and how healthy we are we flex our arm and point to our biceps while in the East, when symbolizing health and strength the abdominal muscles are tapped and pointed out.

I find it a funny show of strength since no one has ever died from failure of the biceps while many die from failure of one of the internal organs. It makes sense to me for strength and health to be measured by the health of our internal organs and not the size of our biceps!

Strengthening the abdominal area and creating a strong flow of energy through the organs is done through 2 directions, yin and yang. Deep levels of relaxation, dissolving, and massaging while letting go and softening is the yin side of the practice. Strengthening the abdominal area through coordination of the back and abdominal muscles with different methods of breathing while also visualizing the lower energy center is the yang side of the practice. Sit ups, leg ups and other resistance exercises are also an important part of the yang side of strengthening the abdominal and back muscles.

In this blog we will practice the yin side of the second Major Down Forces.

Hint: If you practice every day maybe you will get a Bonus blog in the near future about the yang side of the practice!


The Yin Practice

Preparation: Massage your Abdominal Muscles & your Internal Organs

Lie on your back or in a reclining chair. Elevate your head slightly on a pillow or a folded blanket. Rub your palms together quickly to generate heat and then place them on your abdomen, either one on top of the other or next to each other. Now start circling your palms clockwise. Start gently, massaging your skin then move deeper and massage the fascia under your skin. Keep massaging deeper and deeper into the first layer of your abdominal muscles and then the second layer of muscles. Over time you will feel the layers relaxing and softening. That is when you will be able to relax even deeper. You can massage in a large circle or in a few small circles. If you can find a partner who will do it for you, you will reach even higher levels of relaxation - good luck with that one!

Spend about 5 to 10 minutes every day on your abdomen and internal organ massage.

Practice: Relaxing the abdominal muscles and your internal organs

Ice to Water & Water to Gas Meditation

Sit on the floor on a yoga block with your legs criss-crossed, in seza or sit on the edge of a chair

Lengthen your spine, relax your shoulders and suspend your head

meditation-crisscross-sm.jpg

Breathe deeply 3 to 5 times. Relax your entire body.

Next, inhale and bring your mind to your abdominal muscles: the area between your solar plexus and your pubic bone.

Sense the abdomen from your skin all the way to your internal organs and then on an exhalation, relax the abdominal muscles.

Start from the skin and work your way deeper and deeper until you reach your internal organs.

Continue for 3 to 5 minutes.

Next, focus on relaxing your internal organs. Use the metaphor

Ice to Water, Water to Gas

or

Solid to Liquid, Liquid to Gas

Practice every day.

If you want to challenge yourself even more, try this meditation sitting or standing for either 20, 30 or 40 minutes for two of your practices each week!

Over time, you will experience your abdominal muscles and your internal organs relaxing more and more until some days they will feel transparent.


Were you able to let go of some unnecessary tension in your body?

Did you experience any memories while dissolving?

We will continue to work on and practice the Up & Down forces next time. You have 1 Down Force left to learn and practice, which is Face Relaxed.

Meanwhile, if you want more, go to Udemy.com for follow-along videos which teach you how to practice meditation or how Tai Chi can help you achieve your health and martial goals.

Until then, Happy Stretching, Deep Breathing, Empty your Mind, Strengthen your Energetic System & Evoke your spirit!

Rami

Head Suspended

The Major Up & Down Forces: Part 3

What does Head Suspended mean?

When I talk about the head suspended, I imagine a string from the sky gently pulling the top of my head up towards the heavens.

Another metaphor I like is imagining your head like a balloon riding on a cloud.

headOnCloudSm2.jpg

Another way to achieve the principle of Head Suspended is by lengthening Up through the spine all the way to the top of your head and to relax the shoulders Down. When your shoulders are floating, curved or shrunk, they block the neck and head from lengthening Up. Relaxing and dropping the shoulders Down creates space and allows both the neck and the head the freedom to move Up.

4 Common Misalignments of the Head

The first mistake a lot of people make is extending their head too far forward.

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1. Head too far forward

It could be that sticking your head forward is from intellectually thinking ahead and this intention manifests in the wrong position for your head. It could be that you were never taught correct alignment of the head in relation to your neck. You are probably not aware of sticking your head forward.

You could also be unaware that your neck is too far backwards.

Pushing your head too far backwards is the second common misalignment of the head and neck.

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2. Head too far back

Years ago, in the 1980’s, I had the fortune of dropping in on a class with Marion Rosen during a break I had while teaching a Tai Chi seminar at the Omega Institute in New York. Rosen was explaining how traumas and negative emotions can be stored in our physical body which I also believe. One of the students volunteered to have Rosen demonstrate her technique by touching and massaging his neck and shoulders while he lay on a massage table. She felt that he had a lot of tension in those areas and he agreed and told the class that he had arthritis in his neck. As she massaged him with her warm, steamy hands she asked him a few personal questions about his past.

I know her hands were warm and steamy because at the end of class Rosen and I were the only ones remaining and, since she was in her 80’s and I was raised to respect my elders, I offered to help her navigate the long staircase. When she took my hand and we started walking, I felt a wave of warmth going up my arm and throughout my entire body. Many Chinese masters talk about this flow of energy but I had never experienced anything as strong as this before or ever since. Then she said to me, “This is a present for you, young man, for being so nice.”

It seems that she gave her volunteer on the massage table a present, as well, because as she was massaging him and they were talking he remembered his mom telling him “not to stick his neck out” and then we all heard a loud pop from his neck. He told us that he felt a huge relief and release of tension in his neck and he now felt much better. Rosen concluded that he took his mother’s words too literally and physically which manifested in the vertebrae of his neck for the rest of his life. The intellectual idiom “don’t stick your neck out” turned into a physical action of pushing the head back, creating stress and tension in between his neck vertebrae which, over time, lead to inflammation and arthritis.

The third misalignment of the head is tilting it either too far to the right or too far to the left.

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3. Head tilting to the right or left

This sometimes happens because you do not realize you are doing it. It could also be from using your right brain more or from using your left hemisphere more, another example of mental activity manifesting as a physical action.

The right brain - left brain theory suggests that people who are creative and artistic are “right-brained” and people who are more analytic are “left-brained.” This theory is just a myth, though. Although it is true that the left brain controls the muscles on the right side of the body and the right brain controls the muscles on the left side of the body the two sides of the brain work together to achieve tasks and goals.

Tilting your head to the left or to the right could also happen because of physical issues in the shoulders or somewhere in the body. For example, at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, I have witnessed students who have gone through surgery for breast cancer. If the surgery was on the right side, over time they would shrink their right shoulder inwards and tilt their head to the right to create slack for the soft tissue in order to prevent pain. If the surgery was on the the left side the head would tilt to the left.

Another common reason for tilting your head to one side or the other is from a frozen shoulder. If your left shoulder is frozen, your head starts to tilt to the left in order to reduce tension and pain. Some people tilt their head towards their dominant side because that side is stronger and tighter from using it all of the time. It is amazing how the body can have a mind of its own which leads to behavior that can help or hurt - but that is a subject for another blog!

The fourth misalignment of the neck is dropping the chin forward.

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4. Head dropping down

From my experience watching people and working in the field of mind-body therapies, I would say this is the most common misalignment of the head and neck. This behavior is encouraged by driving, looking down at your phone or computer, or from being tall.

These 4 common misalignments and other issues lead to physical tension in the neck and shoulders which can cause headaches and migraines which I wrote about in another blog.

There is also a great course on Udemy that uses principles and techniques from various eastern philosophies to help alleviate and cure headaches and migraines that are caused by physical tension.

Now back to the challenge.


Head Suspended Challenge

Sit on the edge of a chair or on the floor in front of a mirror or with a partner.

Check if your head is tilting to the left or the right.

Make sure your head is not extending too far forward or pressed too far back.

Find the center.

Check that your chin is parallel to the floor and imagine your head riding a cloud.

Lengthen up through the spine and relax your shoulders down.

Breathe deeply - in & out through the nose.

Envision your head suspended from a string from the heavens.

Empty your mind and think of your head as an empty balloon.

No thoughts. Reach & experience the nothingness.

I challenge you to sit between 3 and 30 minutes every day

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We will continue to work on and practice the up & down forces next time.

Meanwhile, if you want more, go to Udemy.com for follow-along videos which teach you how to relieve neck tension and stress, how to practice meditation or how Tai Chi can help you achieve your health and martial goals.

Until then, Happy Stretching, Deep Breathing, Empty your Mind, Strengthen your Energetic System & Evoke your spirit!

Rami

Exciting News! Join us Thursday, March 7 in Andover

Hello, Mind Body Students.

I am sending out a special announcement to invite you to a screening of a mini documentary about how Tai Chi and Chi Kung are helping people with fibromyalgia, arthritis, cancer and other chronic conditions.

The film will feature some of Ramel Rones’ work and testimonies from some of his students.

Thursday March 7 at 7pm

Here is a link to the trailer and a link to the documentary's official website.

Please RSVP by calling 978.623.8430 or online at Memorial Hall Library’s website

2 North Main Street, Andover

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